Project description:Toxoplasma gondii and its nearest extant relative, Hammondia hammondi, are phenotypically distinct despite their remarkable similarity in gene content, synteny, and functionality. To begin to identify genetic differences that might drive distinct infection phenotypes of T. gondii and H. hammondi, in the present study we (i) determined whether two known host-interacting proteins, dense granule protein 15 (GRA15) and rhoptry protein 16 (ROP16), were functionally conserved in H. hammondi and (ii) performed the first comparative transcriptional analysis of H. hammondi and T. gondii sporulated oocysts. We found that GRA15 and ROP16 from H. hammondi (HhGRA15 and HhROP16) modulate the host NF-?B and STAT6 pathways, respectively, when expressed heterologously in T. gondii. We also found the transcriptomes of H. hammondi and T. gondii to be highly distinct. Consistent with the spontaneous conversion of H. hammondi tachyzoites into bradyzoites both in vitro and in vivo, H. hammondi high-abundance transcripts are enriched for genes that are of greater abundance in T. gondii bradyzoites. We also identified genes that are of high transcript abundance in H. hammondi but are poorly expressed in multiple T. gondii life stages, suggesting that these genes are uniquely expressed in H. hammondi. Taken together, these data confirm the functional conservation of known T. gondii virulence effectors in H. hammondi and point to transcriptional differences as a potential source of the phenotypic differences between these species.
Project description:To date little is known about the transcriptome of Hammondia hammondi, the nearest extant relative of Toxoplasma gondii. In this study we used an existing microarray to query Toxoplasma gondii and Hammondia hammondi transcript abundance in sporulated oocysts. Oocysts of the VEG strain of Toxoplasma gondii, and the HhCatGer041 strain of Hammondia hammondi, were isolated from cat feces by sucrose flotation, and sporulated for ~3-6 months in 2% sulfuric acid. RNA was isolated from Bleach-treated oocyst preparations using the Trizol reagent. RNA was biotinylated for hybridization to Toxo 169 Affymetrix chips using the Illumina Total Prep RNA labeling kit (Ambion). For each species 3 separate RNA isolations were performed on the same batch of oocysts and hybridized to individual microarrays.
Project description:In Toxoplasma gondii, an intracellular parasite of humans and other animals, host mitochondrial association (HMA) is driven by a gene family that encodes multiple mitochondrial association factor 1 (MAF1) proteins. However, the importance of MAF1 gene duplication in the evolution of HMA is not understood, nor is the impact of HMA on parasite biology. Here we used within- and between-species comparative analysis to determine that the MAF1 locus is duplicated in T. gondii and its nearest extant relative Hammondia hammondi, but not another close relative, Neospora caninum Using cross-species complementation, we determined that the MAF1 locus harbors multiple distinct paralogs that differ in their ability to mediate HMA, and that only T. gondii and H. hammondi harbor HMA(+) paralogs. Additionally, we found that exogenous expression of an HMA(+) paralog in T. gondii strains that do not normally exhibit HMA provides a competitive advantage over their wild-type counterparts during a mouse infection. These data indicate that HMA likely evolved by neofunctionalization of a duplicate MAF1 copy in the common ancestor of T. gondii and H. hammondi, and that the neofunctionalized gene duplicate is selectively advantageous.
Project description:Most eukaryotic parasites are obligately heteroxenous, requiring sequential infection of different host species in order to survive. Toxoplasma gondii is a rare exception to this rule, having a uniquely facultative heteroxenous life cycle. To understand the origins of this phenomenon, we compared development and stress responses in T. gondii to those of its its obligately heteroxenous relative, Hammondia hammondi and have identified multiple H. hammondi growth states that are distinct from those in T. gondii. Of these, the most dramatic difference was that H. hammondi was refractory to stressors that robustly induce cyst formation in T. gondii, and this was reflected most dramatically in its unchanging transcriptome after stress exposure. We also found that H. hammondi could be propagated in vitro for up to 8 days post-excystation, and we exploited this to generate the first ever transgenic H. hammondi line. Overall our data show that H. hammondi zoites grow as stringently regulated, unique life stages that are distinct from T. gondii tachyzoites, and implicate stress sensitivity as a potential developmental innovation that increased the flexibility of the T. gondii life cycle.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan parasite capable of infecting all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Its closest extant relative, Hammondia hammondi, has never been found to infect humans and, in contrast to T. gondii, is highly attenuated in mice. To better understand the genetic bases for these phenotypic differences, we sequenced the genome of a H. hammondi isolate (HhCatGer041) and found the genomic synteny between H. hammondi and T. gondii to be >95%. We used this genome to determine the H. hammondi primary sequence of two major T. gondii mouse virulence genes, TgROP5 and TgROP18. When we expressed these genes in T. gondii, we found that H. hammondi orthologs of TgROP5 and TgROP18 were functional. Similar to T. gondii, the HhROP5 locus is expanded, and two distinct HhROP5 paralogs increased the virulence of a T. gondii TgROP5 knockout strain. We also identified a 107 base pair promoter region, absent only in type III TgROP18, which is necessary for TgROP18 expression. This result indicates that the ROP18 promoter was active in the most recent common ancestor of these two species and that it was subsequently inactivated in progenitors of the type III lineage. Overall, these data suggest that the virulence differences between these species are not solely due to the functionality of these key virulence factors. This study provides evidence that other mechanisms, such as differences in gene expression or the lack of currently uncharacterized virulence factors, may underlie the phenotypic differences between these species.
Project description:<h4>Introduction</h4>Hammondia hammondi and Toxoplasma gondii are closely related protozoan parasites, but only T. gondii is zoonotic. Both species use felids as definitive hosts and cannot be differentiated by oocyst morphology. In T. gondii, a 529-base pair (bp) repetitive element (TgREP-529) is of utmost diagnostic importance for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests. We identified a similar repetitive region in the H. hammondi genome (HhamREP-529).<h4>Methods</h4>Based on reported sequences, primers and probes were selected in silico and optimal primer probe combinations were explored, also by including previously published primers. The analytical sensitivity was tested using serial dilutions of oocyst DNA. For testing analytical specificity, DNA isolated from several related species was used as controls. The newly established TaqMan PCR (Hham-qPCR1) was applied to tissues collected from H. hammondi-infected gamma-interferon gene knockout (GKO) mice at varying time points post-infection.<h4>Results</h4>Ten forward and six reverse primers were tested in varying combinations. Four potentially suitable dual-labelled probes were selected. One set based on the primer pair (Hham275F, Hham81R) and the probe (Hham222P) yielded optimal results. In addition to excellent analytic specificity, the assay revealed an analytical sensitivity of genome equivalents of less than one oocyst. Investigation of the tissue distribution in GKO mice revealed the presence of parasite DNA in all examined organs, but to a varying extent, suggesting 100- to 10,000-fold differences in parasitic loads between tissues in the chronic state of infection, 42 days post-infection.<h4>Discussion</h4>The use of the 529-bp repeat of H. hammondi is suitable for establishing a quantitative real-time PCR assay, because this repeat probably exists about 200 times in the genome of a single organism, like its counterpart in T. gondii. Although there were enough sequence data available, only a few of the primers predicted in silico revealed sufficient amplification; the identification of a suitable probe was also difficult. This is in accord with our previous observations on considerable variability in the 529-bp repetitive element of H. hammondi.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The H. hammondi real-time PCR represents an important novel diagnostic tool for epidemiological and cell biological studies on H. hammondi and related parasites.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is a human obligate intracellular parasite that has infected over 20% of the world population and has a vast intermediate host range compared to those of its nearest relatives Neospora caninum and Hammondia hammondi. While these 3 species have highly syntenic genomes (80 to 99%), in this study we examined and compared species-specific structural variations, specifically at loci that have undergone local (i.e., tandem) duplication and expansion. To do so, we used genomic sequence coverage analysis to identify and curate T. gondii and N. caninum loci that have undergone duplication and expansion (expanded loci [ELs]). The 53 T. gondii ELs are significantly enriched for genes with predicted signal sequences and single-exon genes and genes that are developmentally regulated at the transcriptional level. We validated 24 T. gondii ELs using comparative genomic hybridization; these data suggested significant copy number variation at these loci. High-molecular-weight Southern blotting for 3 T. gondii ELs revealed that copy number varies across T. gondii lineages and also between members of the same clonal lineage. Using similar methods, we identified 64 N. caninum ELs which were significantly enriched genes belonging to the SAG-related surface (SRS) antigen family. Moreover, there is significantly less overlap (30%) between the expanded gene sets in T. gondii and N. caninum than would be predicted by overall genomic synteny (81%). Consistent with this finding, only 59% of queried T. gondii ELs are similarly duplicated/expanded in H. hammondi despite over 99% genomic synteny between these species.Gene duplication, expansion, and diversification are a basis for phenotypic differences both within and between species. This study represents the first characterization of both the extent and degree of overlap in gene duplication and locus expansion across multiple apicomplexan parasite species. The most important finding of this study is that the locus duplications/expansions are quantitatively and qualitatively distinct, despite the high degree of genetic relatedness between the species. Given that these differential expansions are prominent species-specific genetic differences, they may also contribute to some of the more striking phenotypic differences between these species. More broadly, this work is important in providing further support for the idea that postspeciation selection events may have a dramatic impact on locus structure and copy number that overshadows selection on single-copy genes.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Primary infection by Toxoplasma gondii in pregnant women can result in serious outcomes for the foetus. A false-positive IgG result during pregnancy can lead to a misdiagnosis of past infection and to stopping preventive measures. We collected 189 sera with positive Architect® Toxo IgG assay (Abbott Laboratories) and negative IgG results with at least two other serological tests, in order to find an explanation for the suspected false-positive IgG results. We used the recomLine Toxoplasma IgG® immunoblot (Mikrogen Diagnostik) to search for specific antigenic reactivities of the sera, and the LDBio Toxo II IgG® immunoblot (LDBio Diagnostics) as a confirmatory test. RESULTS:The bands GRA8 and/or GRA7 were positive for 148 samples (78.3%). GRA8 was the most frequent band, appearing in 133 patterns (70.4%), whereas GRA7 was present for 49 samples (25.9%). Of the 81 samples tested with LDBio®, 23 (28.4%) turned out to be positive. Of the 58 negative LDBio® tests (71.6%) (real false-positive Architect® IgG), 23 samples (39.6%) did not show either a GRA8 or p30 band by recomLine®. Their false positivity with Architect® remains unexplained since Abbott uses these two recombinant antigens for their assay. CONCLUSIONS:The Architect® IgG false positivity for T. gondii seems to be due to reactivity against GRA8 for the majority of the sera and GRA7 to a lesser extent. The hypothesis of past contact with parasites genetically close to T. gondii such as Hammondia hammondi or Neospora caninum seems promising and should be assessed further.
Project description:Studies on infectious and emerging diseases caused by bats have been increasing worldwide due to their well-recognised status as a reservoir species for various infectious agents as well as their close relationship to humans and animals. This study reports the molecular frequency and diversity of the parasites belonging to the Sarcocystidae family in bats in São Paulo state, Brazil. A total of 2892 tissue samples (brain and pectoral muscle/heart homogenates) from 1921 bats belonging to 36 species were collected, and the Sarcocystidae protozoan 18S ribosomal RNA encoding genes (18S rDNA) were detected by nested PCR and Sanger sequencing. The relative prevalence of Sarcocystidae species was 4.7% (91/1921) among 16 bat species, including insectivorous (<i>n</i> = 65), frugivorous (<i>n</i> = 13) and nectarivorous (<i>n</i> = 11) bats. From 66 sequenced positive samples, 50 were found to be suitable for analysis. Ten samples from insectivorous and nectarivorous bats showed 100% similarity with <i>Neospora caninum</i> (<i>n</i> = 1), <i>Hammondia hammondi</i> (<i>n</i> = 1), <i>Cystoisospora canis</i> (<i>n</i> = 1), <i>Nephroisospora eptesici</i> (<i>n</i> = 1), <i>Sarcocystis (Frenkelia) glareoli</i> (<i>n</i> = 1), and <i>Toxoplasma gondii</i> (<i>n</i> = 5). The 45 non-<i>T. gondii</i> samples revealed 15 different 18S rDNA alleles with identities varying from 96.1 to 100% with several Sarcocystidae species, which might suggest that bats can harbour a large variety of Sarcocystidae organisms. From the five <i>T. gondii</i>-positive tissue samples, three samples from two different bat specimens of the insectivorous <i>Eumops glacinus</i> were characterised using 11 PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers, revealing the non-archetypal ToxoDB genotypes #6 (type BrI), which is one of the most prevalent in different hosts and regions from Brazil, and #69. We recommend the inclusion of <i>T. gondii</i> as a differential diagnosis for rabies and other neurological syndromes in bats.